Propel, by indie developers Abscure Games, is a complete remake of one of their previous games, The Fall Game. It’s a physics based game which combines puzzle and platform elements to form a fun, level based challenge, with 25 levels in all. You must move your character – a little ball – through various obstacles towards its end goal. Assisting you on your journey are coloured arrows, with different colours causing your ball to act in different ways. They’ll propel you along with varying degrees of inertia, and as an added twist can also change the gravity of the level. This means that your arrow keys can work in a different direction depending on where your gravity is facing. For spatially unaware folks like myself, this is quite a challenge and you might have many, many replays of a level before you make it through. But if you’re anything like me, the fact that it’s your own inability to grasp the relatively simple concept rather than poor game design causing your frequent deaths will keep you trying (and trying, and trying…!) until you manage it.
There is a large arrow on the background of the level to remind you which way your gravity is currently set to which does help, but if you’re moving quickly (which most of the time you will be) and you need to take a second to think what that arrow translates into in terms of which arrow key is going to send you in the direction you actually want to move, you’ll probably be dead already by the time you work it out. Propel lets you retry the level again very quickly though, so once you’ve figured it out once, you can just remember what key to press rather than purely reacting to what you see on the screen. (In theory anyway… if the game counted the number of failed attempts per level though I could really embarrass myself showing just how tricky I found some levels!)
One of the nice features of Propel is the inclusion of collectables, which unlock additional content; a level editor, an arcade mode and a “super secret” extra unlockable feature. As well as allowing you to use these extra features, these collectables also force you to take a harder route to the exit, making the game much more replayable than it would otherwise be once you’ve completed it. Levels that you’ve already grabbed the collectable for are denoted by a little icon on the level selection screen so you can always go back for 100% completion, if you’re into that sort of thing!
The arcade mode involves your ball bouncing around an empty area, with many different arrows along the edges to change your gravity direction and propel you around. They gradually disappear from the side creating holes you can fall through, so the aim is to stay within the game area for as long as possible. If you struggle getting your head around the gravity element of the game like I did, arcade mode is pretty much impossible as it moves pretty quickly but most people are likely to last significantly longer than my current best record of a measly 246 points…
I love the fact that Abscure Games decided to include a level editor with Propel as this really adds a significant additional draw to the game – particularly if you have friends who play as well. If you design a level Abscure also invite you to post a link to it on the blog section of their site to share with other players. The level editor is a lot of fun and extremely intuitive to use, though it’s harder to create a level that is actually challenging. I made a little level to test it out, and had a lot of fun with the tool even though it ended up being a pretty simple level!
The music is catchy and is fitting to the game, though like many games with one track it does get a little stale after a few loops. Moving on to a different track once you get to a certain point in the game would alleviate any boredom factor that exists with the music and might be something worth considering for future development. Either way you can easily turn the music off and play your own if you prefer to do so. In a similar vein, the psychedelically coloured graphics are simple but do the job – though I unfortunately have rather a goldfish-like memory and found it hard to remember what coloured arrows did what. Some kind of symbol on the arrows in addition to colours would make it even more intuitive.
And since Abscure Games are committed to making games at little to no cost, Propel can be downloaded for free from their site – you can’t get better value than that! It’s lots of fun and definitely worth giving it a play!